Objective - Difference in health, lifestyles, and use of health care between groups of varying ethnic origin can have important implications for preventive and curative health care. This paper studies whether socioeconomic factors explain ethnic differences in these outcomes. Design - Data on health status, lifestyles, and use of health care were obtained from interviews with 3296 people aged 16-64 years (response: 60.6%), among whom were 848 first generation immigrants. Ethnic differences in these outcomes were examined with and without adjustment for socioeconomic factors, using logistic regression. Setting - General population of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Main outcome measures - Health status (self rated health, General Health Questionnaire, functional limitations), lifestyles (smoking, alcohol), and use of health care (general practice, pharmaceuticals, hospitalisations). Main results - Immigrants from Turkey, Morocco and (former) Dutch colonies report a poorer health and a higher use of health care, especially primary health care among the elderly. An adverse socioeconomic position partially explains the poor health of these immigrants. In turn, their poor health explains most of their higher use of health care. Conclusions - Cultural factors and poor living conditions seem to contribute to the poor health of immigrants, besides an adverse socioeconomic position. The pressure on various health services will increase in future because of the relatively high increase in immigrants' needs at older ages and their presently low mean age.